Arbery lawyer weighs in on 2017 Taser incident

A 2017 incident in which police attempted to use a Taser on Ahmaud Arbery offers a glimpse into the mentality that this year led two white men to chase him down and kill him, an attorney representing Arbery’s family said on Tuesday.

Related: Exclusive: Police tried to tase Ahmaud Arbery in 2017 incident, video shows

Arbery was killed on 23 February by Gregory and Travis McMichael, who chased him down while he was out for a run in Satilla Shores, Georgia.

In November 2017, Glynn county police officers stopped to question Arbery one morning as he sat alone in his car, according to documents and body camera footage obtained by the Guardian.

An officer attempted to use a Taser when Arbery became agitated and began to ask the officers why they were hassling him if he wasn’t committing a crime.

The officers suspected Arbery of using marijuana, but he refused to let them search his car and they eventually allowed him to leave on foot because his license was suspended.

S Lee Merritt, the family attorney, said the incident showed how Arbery could attract suspicion just because of the color of his skin.

“The same reason that Ahmaud Arbery was killed was the same reason he was stopped in that park: it was the criminalization of blackness itself,” Merritt said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Merritt said he did not know if Arbery had told his family about the incident.

“They saw a black man alone in the park and they said, ‘You know what, this appears suspicious.’”

Brandon Condo, a spokesman for the Glynn county police department, declined to comment on the 2017 incident.

Gregory McMichael is a retired law enforcement officer. When he and his son killed Arbery, they believed he had been breaking into a house under construction.

Merritt said on Tuesday many people had gone into the house, but “only the men who were black who went to that property were criminalized”.